Arsenal closing in on Bayern Munich’s Luiz Gustavo

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Luiz Gustavo was an important piece of depth for last year’s treble winners, but in Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, the Brazilian international didn’t even make the bench for Friday’s opener. Whereas the system Jupp Heynckes used to claim last year’s Champions League used two players at the base of midfield, Guaridola’s only using one. Bastian Schweinsteiger has that spot. Javi Martínez is his understudy. Gustavo can’t break the 18.

That means the 26-year-old needs a new home, lest he wants to spend the lead-up to World Cup 2014 scrounging playing time scraps around the Allianz. Thankfully, Gustavo’s also gotten offers from teams in England, Italy and Russia, with reports claiming Arsenal will try to close the deal this week.

Depending on the price, Gustavo would be a useful acquisition for anybody, his ability to play in midfield or defense giving him the versatility to fill in at a number of spots. If your team plays a typical defensive midfielder, there’s a good chance he’s better than the one you’ve got. For Arsenal, he’d provided some needed reinforcement.

The extent to which you see Arsenal as needing reinforcement probably depends on your view of Alex Song. Arsenal sold their defensive midfielder to Barcelona last summer and didn’t truly replace him. The following season, the Gunners recorded two more points, still finished top four (albeit one spot lower), and allowed 12 fewer goals. Yet missing a  destroyer at the base of midfield, some felt Arsenal lacking.

That’s where Gustavo steps in. He is what’s become a typical Brazilian sitter – a player whose very strong protecting the defense (or, at times, dropping into defense) but doesn’t offer a lot in the build up. He strikes a ball well and can be dangerous running onto a shot, but he’s much more Gilberto Silva than anybody Arsenal used in front of the defense last year.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves on this one. First, he hasn’t been signed, and although the link (above) is from a reputable source, the language is the typical thin, nebulous content that’s regularly churned out by the London media. There’s no mention of potential fee, wages, and there only quote being used (“nothing concrete yet”) is ambiguous. We have to trust the report isn’t coming out of nowhere, but it could be stronger.

Likewise, we shouldn’t just assume Arsenal will move Gustavo into the starting XI. Some feel a prototypical destroyer is obligatory in today’s game, but Arsene Wenger was clearly content mixing a matching his non-defensive midfielders last season. The three central players who ended up with the most appearances were Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, and Jack Wilshire, but even the last two would sometimes find themselves out of the XI if Santi Cazorla was moved in from the winger.

And, as we mentioned, Arsenal’s defense actually improved last season. A lot of that was on the year-over-year improvement was saw from Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, but some of it could have been Arsenal’s improved ability to hold the ball. If that’s Wenger’s view, Gustavo could just be a tool in the box, something to use as the job requires. And it that’s not Wenger’s view, he could still see Arsenal’s back five as sufficient.

Regardless, this is Arsenal, and given how their summer’s progressed, there’s reason to be skeptical that this deal’s as close is being reported. But if Gustavo winds up at The Emirates, he should be a very useful part.

Retailer removes T-shirt from sale over Hillsborough links

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LONDON (AP) A British retailer has withdrawn a T-shirt from sale in its stores and online following complaints that its design could be associated with the Hillsborough soccer disaster.

[ MORE: Liverpool, Man City drawn in UCL quarterfinals ]

Topman had on sale a red shirt with a large “96” on the back and the phrase “what goes around comes around” underneath. The word “Karma” is written on one of the sleeves.

Ninety-six people were crushed to death in the Hillsborough stadium disaster, which happened in Sheffield in April 1989 at an FA Cup semifinal match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Topman said it “apologizes unreservedly for any offense caused by this T-shirt” and that the “garment has been removed from sale online and in stores.”

The retailer said the design was inspired by a Bob Marley track, with the number referring to the year of the re-release.

Cosmos, Miami FC petition USSF for 2018 U.S. Open Cup entry

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NASL’s decision to cancel the 2018 regular season has caused significant ramifications, with the latest forcing several clubs to be excluded from the U.S. Open Cup.

The New York Cosmos and Miami FC — both of whom participated in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup have not been named among the eligible teams for the 2018 edition following NASL’s cancellation of the league season.

Now, the two teams have petitioned to U.S. Soccer and its new president, Carlos Cordeiro, to rethink its decision and allow the clubs to play despite not belonging to a professional league.

Both clubs do boast reserve teams though — New York Cosmos B and Miami 2 — which is the lead argument from each organization as to why U.S. Soccer should grant the teams an exemption and a spot in the tournament.

Cosmos B and Miami FC 2 will both play in the NPSL once again in 2018, with both rosters largely comprised of senior team players.

As it stands, 94 teams have been placed in the 2018 Open Cup field, as announced by U.S. Soccer on Wednesday.

Both open letters from the respective clubs can be found below.

Brazil’s Luis could miss World Cup after leg fracture

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MADRID (AP) Brazilian left back Filipe Luis has a leg fracture that could stop him going to the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Arsenal draws CSKA Moscow in Europa quarters ]

Atletico Madrid said Friday that Luis sustained the injury to his left leg in the second half of the Spanish team’s 5-1 rout of Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League round-of-16 match on Thursday.

The club did not say how long Luis will be sidelined. Similar injuries have required at least six weeks of recovery time and longer if surgery is required.

The 32-year-old Luis was called up by Brazil coach Tite for friendlies against Russia in Moscow on March 23 and against Germany in Berlin on March 27. Brazil’s first game at the World Cup is against Switzerland on June 17.

Luis was injured while trying to prevent Lokomotiv forward Eder taking a shot from inside the area in the 60th minute. He successfully cleared the ball but his leg was hit from behind.

Luis left the field on a stretcher and tests Friday in Madrid confirmed the fracture in his lower leg.

Atletico advanced 8-1 on aggregate after the victory in Russia.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage:

Casemiro: Neymar “would get along very well with Cristiano” at Real

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The speculation (transfer) train keeps chugging along as domestic seasons near their conclusion, and one rumor continues to be fueled linking one of the world’s top players to Real Madrid.

[ MORE: FA Cup preview ]

Neymar’s time at Paris Saint-Germain has been short, less than a season to be precise, but the Brazil international could be moving on from the Parc des Princes sooner rather than later after his side crashed out of the UEFA Champions League recently against Real.

Nothing concrete has been determined about Neymar’s future, but Real Madrid continues to be linked with the South American star, and one current Real player feels Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo would get along “very well.”

“[Neymar] has always been spectacular, since he was 11 years old. He does crazy things,” Real midfielder Casemiro told El Partidazo .l”I don’t think there is any chance that he will come to Real, but you have to ask [Madrid president] Florentino Perez.

“He knows that the door is always open for him in Madrid, but he is happy in Paris. He always says that he is happy there, that he is comfortable in Paris. There are many Brazilians there too, it is very quiet there, but whether it’s possible you have to ask Florentino.

“With the quality that he has, I would sign him for sure. I hope he comes this season.

“He is a great player, one of the top three in the world. He can do whatever he wants off the pitch if he continues to do what he does on it.

“He would get along very well with Cristiano, very well.”

Real is currently in the midst of a historic run in the Champions League, having won the competition three times in the last four seasons.

Casemiro isn’t the only Real player eager to bring in a talent such as Neymar though.

Defender Dani Carvajal also recently told the media that he would be ecstatic to have a teammate like the Brazilian come into the fold at the Santiago Bernabeu.